The NHL lockout ends — but will fans come back?

After a devastating 113-day lockout, the NHL faces a daunting task in winning back the loyalty of millions of disgruntled fans

hockey fan
(Image credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

After 113 days, hundreds of canceled games, and seemingly immeasurable ill will, the NHL lockout has finally drawn to a close, with players and owners striking a deal on a salary cap and how to split hockey-related revenue. But the real struggle may only have just begun, as the league must now try to woo back fans frustrated by pro hockey's third massive labor dispute in 20 years. "I'm hoping that our fans understand this was something that had to be done for the strength of the league, for the strength of the Players Association," says Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider in an interview at the Associated Press. "I hope they don't hold it against us and just come out and see some great hockey." Despite (and perhaps, in part, because of) the platitudes of league officials and players, NHL fan frustration is at an all-time high. Has the NHL alienated its most ardent fans for good?

Angry fans have been very, very vocal. "These are tough economic times, and we had billionaires fighting millionaires over a game," says Red Wings fan Joe Sasso at USA Today. "Still a fan, but they are not getting a single red cent from me." And this: "To be honest with you, I have learned to live without the sport that I love," says Flyers fan Lisa D'Angelo. One disgruntled fan even organized a grassroots campaign called "Just Drop It," encouraging his fellow fans to skip one NHL game for every game canceled after Dec. 21, reports Dan Gelston at the Associated Press. The "Just Drop It" campaign on Facebook had led to more than 21,000 people pledging not to watch any games or spend any money on NHL merchandise for the first 10 games of the year.

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Scott Meslow

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for He has written about film and television at publications including The Atlantic, POLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.